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July 2013

Why An Incubator Inside Your Company is Money Well Spent (as told by "The Wire")...

Everyone hates spending money on people not directly tied to revenue.  For most companies, true R&D budgets are a thing of the past.  Should they be?  For big companies, the answer has to be no - milking the cash cow box in the magic quadrant only works for so long.  Eventually, something's going to run up on you and take you out.  Just ask Kodak, and these days you could probably add Dell to that list, and I'm sure you can come up with others.

Another example of the need to figure out a way to innovate is Microsoft, which is now Billions of Wire-poster dollars into development of web services without much to show for it.  True, the Xbox division is a hit without question, but the whole PC monopoly thing is obviously on shaky ground.

Recently there was a great comparison in Slate - contrasting Microsoft with the crime organization that was the back-story in the cult classic HBO series "The Wire".  Even if you never picked up The Wire (widely regarded as the best series ever on pay TV), you have to appreciate the comparison.  

More from Slate:

"What does Microsoft in the Ballmer era have in common with drug kingpin Avon Barksdale’s organization in The Wire? For years, both of them had the strongest package. They owned their territory, owned their market, owned their users. They were untouchable. Then times changed, bringing new competitors with new, intense products. Their own product went weak. But they couldn’t let go. “We got a weak product, and we holding on to prime real estate with no muscle,” Avon’s cerebral second-in-command, Stringer Bell, complains to him. For the Barksdale organization, the product was heroin and the real estate was the drug-ravaged Franklin Towers housing project. For Microsoft, the product is Windows and the real estate is the PC.

“We fought for every one of them Towers,” says Avon’s loyal sister, Brianna, “and to give them up now would mark us as weak.” The Towers were their pride and their security. Likewise, Microsoft hung onto their PC towers. They fought for them, even took on a massive antitrust lawsuit for them. As David Bank wrote in Breaking Windows: How Bill Gates Fumbled the Future of Microsoft, after Internet Explorer displaced Netscape Navigator in the ’90s, a debate ensued within Microsoft between the “doves,” who wanted Microsoft to embrace the Internet with or without Windows, and the “hawks,” who wanted to make Windows a mandatory part of the Internet experience. The hawkish position refused to accept the inevitable: The Windows high—like any high—would fade. Desktop apps would give way to far more addictive Internet sites."

Go read the whole thing - it's a great pop culture/real world contrast.  

So incubators and looking for what's next make sense, regardless of the world you live in.  The question basically comes down to this - is it cheaper to fund R&D that's not directly tied to revenue or to write a big check to acquire whatever is threatening your hedgmony down the road (hello Facebook, meet Instagram)?

If you plan is to acquire whatever threatens you, you better do it before there are 5 other competitors chasing the same innovation, and hope you're not to late.  Just ask Avon Barksdale.  

More "Us vs. Them" When Key People Leave Your Company...

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about not being weak when people decide to leave your company.  I wrote that post to give an alternative stance to the usual approach - thanking them for their service publically, having a go away ceremony, all that crap.

Of course, you can take the "Us vs. Them" approach a little too far as well.  Here's a little story I'd Ballmer like to tell, about one CEO you know so well (h/t Beastie Boys, RIP Adam Yauch).  From the Wikipedia bio of Mark Luckovsky:

"Mark Lucovsky has stated that Steve Ballmer, on being informed that Lucovsky was about to leave Microsoft for Google, picked up a chair and threw it across the room, hitting a table in his office. Lucovsky also described Ballmer as saying: "F**king Eric Schmidt is a fu**ing p***y. I'm going to fu**ing bury that guy, I have done it before, and I will do it again. I'm going to f**king kill Google," then resumed trying to persuade Lucovsky to stay at Microsoft. Ballmer has described this as a "gross exaggeration of what actually took place."

Lucovsky worked on the Microsoft .NET My Services product (codenamed Hailstorm) prior to moving to Google. At Google, he served as a Technical Director for the Ajax Search API. He joined VMware in July 2009.

Too good not to share. You can take the whole Us vs. Them thing a little too far.  Stop when you're thinking about calling the other company's CEO a derogatory name.  And when you want to throw a chair.  

Pens?  Yes.  Chairs?  No.

Here's Your Five-Step Process to Develop a Career Plan - Forward to Anyone Who Needs to Stop Whining and Be Accountable for Themselves....

I'm up at the Halogen Software Blog talking about the value of Career Plans.  You're tired of employees not taking accountability for their own performance, right?  Great, then you'll love this.  Check out this sample:

"Let’s slow this train down and talk about what’s really important: You.

My job is to be your agent. Your personal Jerry McGuire. Your Ari Gold.

You? You’re Turtle or Rod Tidwell. I’m the guy who looks out for you.

It’s my job to give you tough news. So here it is:

You’re floating in your career. If you were floating any more, you’d be getting ready to be eaten by Bill Murray in Caddyshack amongst screams of horror. You look like you’re mailing it in. You want to move up and make more money. You’re frustrated because it’s not happening quickly enough.

The reason you’re floating is pretty simple. You don’t have a career plan. You’re showing up and doing work, but it’s not directed in a way that’s going to give you maximum (or possible any) career benefit."

If you want to move up in your career, you need to change your approach. Luckily for you, I’ve got five things you can do to make sure everyone who matters understands the impact you have on the business."

Word. Click here to visit my post at Halogen Software and get the Five Steps to Developing a Career Plan... Forward it to the whiner of your choice.

My Vegas Weekend via Instagram (Featuring James Harden and Bro-Packs)...

Went to Vegas last weekend with a couple of bloggers of note - Steve Boese and Matt Stollak. Our destination had a nerd quality to it  - The NBA Summer League, where professional basketball hopefuls convene to prove they have what it takes to be one of 400 players that play in the best hoops league in the world.

Now - you should know that only about 5% of the players who attend and play in the Vegas Summer League are actual NBA players - the rest are draft choices and free agents who are scrapping and doing whatever it takes to impress the teams.  For example, your world champion Miami Heat had zero players who were on the championship roster playing in Vegas.  Instead they had 15 guys who were incredible, but for the most part had never graced an NBA roster.

Why go to that? First, we like hoops.  More importantly, I go because there's a huge morality play on talent going on at the Summer League.  If NBA veterans are the best 400 players in the world, what we saw is 401-1000, and the differences are pretty small between spots 300 to 400 in the NBA and the better players in the summer league.  Who decides? What makes the difference between making a roster and going to Turdistan to play next winter?  

Anyway, let's lighten it up.  He's the story of the weekend as told through my Instagram account (enable pictures if you viewing this in email or just click through).  Follow me on Instagram and I'll follow you back, yo.

First up, what Vegas trip is complete without a Strip photo?  Here's the view from my room - stayed at Palms Place at the Palms, which is like staying at the W, except with more mirrors so you can check your - shall we say - posture - wherever you are at in the room.  KD had his own room - and he didn't really need all the mirrors, but he doesn't make the rules in Vegas.  

I went to a couple of casinos, and just to get teed up, I watched Rounders a couple of nights before, where I was reminded how Matt Damon always got into Teddy KGB's head.  Check it out if you haven't seen Rounders for awhile (mild NSFW):

Alas, I've never really been bitten by the bug, so I just drove Steve and Matt crazy by encouraging them to "Splash the Pot" early and often, regardless of where we were and what we we were doing.  

Picture #2 - the only thing that mildly interested me was the early odds on who would win the NBA title next year, a photo I'm including here.  Couldn't find any value.  I like the Pacers at 12:1, but I would LOVE them at 20:1.  Feel me?  Like KGB, I'll splash the pot whenever the ##*# I want.  

Picture #3 - Helicopter parents exist everywhere, even in the NBA.  The guy in the Lebron shades is Quincy's Acy's dad, who talked so much trash behind his own son's bench that I thought someone would have come to take care of it.  He was pure helicopter dad, equal parts bombastically encouraging his son and downgrading him verbally when he screwed up.  Bonus - Quincy's mom to his right was talking equal trash to his teammates when she felt like they didn't kick it to him soon enough.  Quincy's actually a good player, and was on the Toronto roster last year.  Only in America.

Picture #4 - Stars have entourages, and James "Fear the Beard" Harden was no different.
 He appeared right in front of us to watch a game featuring one of a his former teammates, and had at least 3 non-hoops friends in tow - just like Vinny Chase in Entourage.  We saw all kinds of great NBA players and coaches watching the games all weekend, Harden's the only one who got security.  They final turned around the fifth time I encouraged the Suns' Summer League team to "Splash the Pot".  I kid - they turned around when an attractive lady had a question.  After ignoring a line of kids for autographs for an hour, of course.  To be fair, the Beard would have never stopped signing autographs if he started.  That's why he's got his own Eric, Turtle and Johnny Drama - so someone else can tell security he's not going to sign.

Picture #5 - My biggest regret is we didn't have enough dudes (or replica jerseys) to have our own Bro-pack.  This guy was part of a Warriors Bro-pack, and Warriors fan loved his Warriors.  So much so, he pledged his loyalty by creating a sign that said, "I'm a Warriors" (plural).  Nothing to round that sentence out - like "fan", "bro" or any other identifier.  "I'm a Warriors".  Of course you are, Warriors Bro-pack leader.  Of course you are.


That's a wrap. 5 photos and a Teddy KGB video. I'm encouraging you to Splash the Pot this week. After all, it's your HR department and you can Splash the Pot whenever the #### you want.

Drop me a note if you want to go to the NBA Summer League next year.  We're thinking less hoops (2 games a day) across 3 days and field trips to Casinos, Penn and Teller shows and In-and-Out Burger.

Join Me For Project X - HR Capitalist Insiders...

I went for a run earlier this week and realized something pretty simple - the best conversations I have professionally tend to be of the analog variety (plain old phone calls) with readers of the HR Capitalist and Fistful of Talent (my other blog, click the link to check it out if you're not aware of FOT). 

Since starting this blog in 2007, I've had hundreds of meaningful phone calls where I've met many of you in person, and those phone calls really have made me more energized than ever about the HR profession.

How did those phone calls happen? Usually off a comment on the blog or a reply to the daily email from you, at which point I say, "Hey - can we jump on the phone and say hi?"

Simply put, we've got some amazing people in the field who are smart, funny and can do anything they want to career-wise, yet they choose HR, recruiting, human capital, whatever you want to call it.  Most of the people I've talked to I would put in the top quartile (more like the top 10%?) of the profession.  

There's just one thing missing - Those hundreds of people (you) I've talked to aren't connected with each other.

That's why I'm launching a skunk-works called Project X, subtitled HR Capitalist Insiders. Here's how it's going to work:

1. I'm going to do what I can to book at least one phone call with a reader of the HR Capitalist or FOT every day.  If I don't hit it every day, I'm going to try and average 5 a week.  I've got an obsessive compulsive streak.

2. I'm also planning to go back through my LinkedIn and capture all the great people I've talked to in the past and reach out to see if you want to be a part of Project X.

3. The calls don't have to be long. If you're reading this, you already get what we're about here.  Just a quick call to say hi and learn more about your background, I'll share stuff about me as well.  We do 200K+ in email deliveries a month between email and RSS and get another 55K in monthly page views a month organically between the Capitalist and FOT.  Translation - there's tons of great people strolling through the site.  We just need to get more connected with each other.

4. My plan for Project X/HR Capitalist Insider is that you should know each other. I know a lot of you and it's been great for my outlook and motivation level. You should get that same kick if you want it.  So I'm going to find a private way to add you to the HR Capitalist Insider list and let you connect and network with each other.  Vendors won't be a part of it, but if you're a career HR pro/recruiter working for a vendor, you're eligible.  But if you try to sell, I'll put a contract out on you.

5. What's it take to make it to the HR Capitalist Insider list?  Energy. Business Chops.  A passion for what we do in the talent game.  A desire to network and find other people like you. Enough DNA that you could work in marketing or sales if you wanted to - but you chose HR/Talent.  I love that about us.

6. What else are we going to do?  Once you're an insider, I'm thinking I'll take feedback and ask the group what they want to do.  I'm thinking opportunities to network and learn - whatever means we come up with to deliver on that.  But we'll do it as a small group of insiders.

7. What do you have to do in exchange for being part of Project X/HRC Insider?  Engage. Participate a little bit.  Give a #@#t.

If you've ever said that you wish the professional associations in our profession would be more <insert wish>, this is probably for you.  

WHAT TO DO NEXT: If anyone around you has ever said, "You're not like other HR people I've known", reply to this email (if you get it through email) or shoot me a note at [email protected] and say, "KD - Put me down for Project X. My phone number is XXX-XXX-XXXX."  I'll reach out and set up a time to connect.

I Just Saw My First Google Street View Car - I'm Guessing Employee Disengagement Happens In Less Than a Month...

I was driving to Atlanta this week and say my first Google Street View car in the field. (email subscribers enable pictures or click through to see photo)

Since I'm twisted, I automatically started thinking about employment issues related to recruiting for "associates" to drive the GSVC (that's my cool handle for the Google Street View Car).  Here's what immediately came to mind:

1.  It's got to be cool saying you just got hired by Google as a GSVC engineer.  Go to Google, look up an address, go to Street View and say, "Yep, Uncle Lewis, I shot the #@@# footage. Conditions were awful, but I powered through it.  See the kid? I swerved at him..."

2. About a month in, the newness has worn off.  You realize Google has the advanced GPS telling you where to turn and even though you have an engineer title, the monkey that went up in Sputnik had more autonomy and responsibility.

3. Your GSVC war stories creep to a halt.  You wish you would have been the guy that photoed the GSVC hitting that donkey way out in the sticks.  That could be your legacy.

4. You realize that being a pest control company technician looks interesting.  Leverage your GSVC skills and fight infestations of all kinds. You probably get a toolbelt with that. Toolbelts are cool and impress <insert gender of interest>.

5. You start actively looking at other map services from your job on your smartphone.  You're officially disgruntled.  It's month 2. You suck.  More importantly and germane, your job sucks.

Which brings me to the parenting side of the house.  I gotta start telling my kids that they don't want to drive the cars, they want to own the cars. Or at least manage the fleet.

I think Rage Against the Machine said it best:

"A thousand years they had tha tools
We should be takin' 'em
F**k tha G-ride I want the machines that are makin' em.."

--Rage Against The Machine, "Down Rodeo"

Autonomy and freedom of choice, the abilty to create.  Keys to job satisfaction, I think.

That Donkey?  He had it coming.  Burros jump up to get beat down.

VIDEO: Taking The Time To Act Like You Give A ####...(From Curb Your Enthusiasm)

Capitalist Note - Do not click on the video below if you're sensitive. It illustrates the point of this post in a very strong way, but it's NSFW.  Make sure you use your headphones/earbuds. 

You're busy. I'm busy.  We fail to read the tea leaves of what's important to others when people ask us to do something that would take a just a little bit of time and we decline.

It's all around you in the workplace, and it's probably most important when someone asks you for a bit of time to connect on a non-work related item.  After all, when someone asks you to connect on a non-work related item, they're really asking to be your friend in some fashion.  If you're too busy to spend that time, it's probably not net neutral - you probably lost a lot of ground with the person you declined.

This rule is true in all workplace relationships, regardless of level, reporting relationships, etc.  Check out the video below of Larry David and Susie from Curb Your Enthusiasm.  Larry's honest that he doesn't need to spend time on a nicety that's an afterthought.  Susie is offended that he wouldn't take the time.

Most people in the workplace won't tell you they're offended in the same - um, aggressive - way Susie tells David.  But for a lot of them, it's what they're thinking.

"####ing freak of nature, doesn't want a house tour.." 

Throw this in a folder to illustrate a workplace opportunity to the people on your team who are low sensitivity and generally unaware of how people are feeling around them.

Repeat - Do not click on the video below if you're sensitive.  Headphones Mandatory.

When Important People Leave: Circle the Wagons and Fire Up the "Us vs. Them" Machine...

If you're like most companies, you have people leave all the time.  They generally fall into one of three buckets:

-People you're happy to see go because you don't have to fire them (or you're really bad at cutting the cord and wouldn't fire them, at which point you are super happy). Us vs them

-People in the middle. You don't want them to go, but your business won't collapse if they leave.  It's hard to get fired up as a result.

-Key People.  Losing people in this category really hurts.  You probably were moved to make a counter offer, but they still left.  It's going to be hard to replace them.

Now I could go on a rant and talk about how many people actually belong in the "key people" bucket and who's actually not replaceable - it's a smaller number than most of us think.  But I'll spare you that rant today.

Instead, let's talk about communications.  What do you do when a truly key person decides to take his/her talents elsewhere?  Do you send them a public thank you, wish them well, etc?  Or do you take it personally and subtlety let everyone in the organization know that they've made a mistake, and you're going to crush them"?

What?  Too harsh?  Hang with me for a second.  Let's look at the example the Los Angeles Lakers (pro basketball) and their star Kobe Bryant set when fellow superstar Dwight Howard opted to sign with another team.  More on celebrating departures from the Big Lead:

"Clevelanders reacted to LeBron James’ Decision by burning his jersey en masse. Kobe Bryant reacted to Dwight Howard’s Decision in a healthier and less demonstrative way. Not long after D12 announced his intentions to take his talents to Houston, Bryant posted this warm and fuzzy picture of himself and longtime teammate Pau Gasol to Instagram.

The caption translated means “we go together, Lakers heart, wine.” It’s throwing severe shade in any language.

Bryant also took the step of unfollowing Howard on Twitter, so his social media rebuttal is now complete."

It's easy to do what's expected when a key, talented person leaves your team and wish them well, etc. - which basically signals to all that you're OK with it and expect it.  One unexpected cost of that is that everyone on your team sees that the cost of leaving - The professional relationship with you, the company, etc - is pretty low.  

No bridges burned?  Great?  Let me start looking for another job!  There's no cost!

Everyone does what's expected in this area.  Look around - no one is really making it us vs them when key people decide to leave your company.

In fact, the celebratory emails when people leave have gone far enough that I'm going to zig why the world zags.  I think you'll get more attention and loyalty if you figure out a way to channel a little Kobe Bryant the next time a key person decides to jump ship.  So much so, I'm going to noodle on it and give you five ways to tell the team that remains it's "us vs them" the next time a key person leaves.  I'll try to get that out next week.

Got a good strategy to help me build the list?  Hit me in the comments.  Until then, start thinking about what you do when key people (not just anyone) choose to leave your company.

Are you messaging that you expect key people to leave? Probably. Is that what you want to do?  Probably not.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY: Here's Your Next Quote to Use With a High Potential Who is Performing Average at Best...

I'm serving up perhaps the best quote I've ever seen related to coaching talent today.  It's pulled from the the blog Letters of Note (hat tip to Tim Sackett), from a letter that resulted when F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote to his friend, Ernest Hemingway, and asked for his honest opinion on his new book - Tender Is the Night.  Hemingway wrote him a pretty interesting letter that included the aforementioned quote:

“It's a lot better than I say. But it's not as good as you can do.”

Think about that quote for a second.  Coaches of all types are known for being hard on their students, and of course, those same students tend to tune the coaches out over time.  That's the way it works, right?  That's why leaders tend to have a shelf life of 2-5 years.  People start tuning out over time.

Why do people tune out?  Because you're telling them what to do too much, dummy.  

So imagine the power of you interrupting that pattern and falling on the sword - telling them their performance is better than you sometimes give them credit for, but the real standard they should be measuring themselves against is their own potential/capability.

Do better not because I tell you to. That's lame.

Do better because you've got gifts from god, Billy.

See the whole letter here.  Then share it with your team and use the quote often.

I Get It: 4 Ways I Can Tell You Don't Like Voice Mail (and what I think about each of them...)

It's a digital world, baby.  As we all know, voice mail is on the decline since it's much easier to return an email or other type of digital message rather than have to pick up the phone and return a call.

Wow - someone might actually pick up.  Analog interaction ensues.  What a complete waste of time. No message

I kid.

The interesting trend I see related to the reliance on digital messaging is that people are increasingly becoming more aggressive about telling you they don't want a voice mail.  The latitude they have related to this usually depends on their power within the organization they serve.  The more power they have and they don't have to answer to someone for telling the world they don't want a voice mail, the more likely they are to shoot you straight with their preference.

Here are 4 ways some of you are telling us you don't want a voice mail:

1.  Voice Mail hasn't been set up.  Of course, you might just be a technology moron as well.  I can't tell, and I'll usually judge the fine line between you being a moron, hard-core stubborn/passive aggressive or just digital based on whether you have a twitter account.

2.  You don't return calls.  Got it - I need to find another way to get you.  It took me 3 weeks to get the message, but now I know I can get an email response the same week and the calls never get returned.

3.  You nicely steer me to send you an email.  So your voice mail is set up, but I hear the clarity in your message.  You're not telling me you won't return a VM, but you are telling me I can expect quicker response with an email - in a veiled way.  Thanks for being kind of straight with me, I'll do what you imply.

4.  You specifically tell me that I'll get a faster response if I send an email, maybe even tell me to email you.  The niceties are out of it - you're telling me not to leave a voice mail, but you cared enough to set up your message to tell me that.  A little more hard core than #3, but I guess you're being even more straight with me.

Me?  I like #3 nd #4 - I've still got voice mail if I'm stubborn, but you've warned me.  And if I want to get your attention, I ought to be able to comply, right?

Of course, no one ever goes the opposite way - saying "My response time to email resembles a hard, long winter.  Please call me, I've lost control of my inbox and need to declare email bankruptcy."

And that's probably more needed.